Garcia drops champ Haney 3 times in wild upset


NEW YORK — Ryan Garcia’s fitness to fight was questioned in the lead-up to his bout with Devin Haney, a turbulent promotion that was highlighted by Garcia’s erratic comments.

Garcia (25-1, 20 KOs) was a major underdog and was virtually counted out entering Saturday evening. His blinding, powerful left hook turned the tide as Garcia scored three knockdowns to pull the upset via majority decision at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

One judge scored the bout 112-112 but was overruled by scores of 114-110 and 115-109 for Garcia. However, Garcia wasn’t eligible to win Haney’s WBC junior welterweight title after he weighed 143.2 pounds Friday for the 140-pound contest. Haney remains the champion in defeat, but it’s Garcia who scored the career-best win by knocking off ESPN’s No. 6 pound-for-pound boxer.

“I don’t give a f— what people say about me. I walked through the fire and still held it down and still beat f—ing Devin Haney and still drink every day,” said Garcia, 25. “Not necessarily am I proud of that, but I’m just saying it was a statement to show you, you guys can’t really f— with me.”

Haney was a -900 favorite earlier in the week, according to ESPN BET, but he closed at -575. Garcia pretended to drink a beer at Friday’s weigh-in and paid Haney upward of $600,000, sources told ESPN, as part of the deal for the fight to proceed.

One day earlier, Garcia made a bet with Haney and agreed to pay him $500,000 for every pound he weighed in at above 140. Haney later said Garcia honored the bet, which would mean Garcia paid Haney a total of $1.5 million.

In the opening minute of the fight, as a harbinger of what was to come, Garcia was the one who made Haney pay with a ripping left hook that rocked the champion.

Haney (31-1, 15 KOs) quickly recuperated and went on to outbox Garcia over the next four rounds. He even wobbled Garcia in Round 3 with a right hand while Garcia boxed off a back foot and looked for another counter left hook that would change the fight.

Garcia found it in Round 7 as he floored Haney — the first time he has been on the canvas in 32 pro fights — but Garcia didn’t capitalize. Moments after the knockdown, as the crowd erupted, Garcia crushed Haney with a right hand on the break and was deducted one point by referee Harvey Dock.

“It was a horrible ref,” said Garcia, who fights out of Southern California. “[Haney] was holding me for dear life, and I felt an opportunity to keep swinging while my hands were free and I cracked him. And then he took a point away when I cracked him, but [Haney] held me and then I should have knocked him out in that seventh round.

“They stole that from me. … And Devin was holding and holding and holding. … That was ridiculous. That was crazy. I never seen some s— like that.”

What should have been a two-point advantage for Garcia was nullified. It didn’t matter. Garcia floored Haney again in Round 10, this time with a tremendous right hand, the same punch he used to wobble Haney in Round 6.

The following round, Garcia landed his money punch again, a counter left hook that rolled Haney’s eyes as he was launched backward to the canvas. Somehow, he sprung back up, his cheeks badly swollen, his mouth bloody.

Garcia went for the finish, but Haney was able to stave him off and heard the final bell in one of the most surprising and dramatic fights in recent memory.

“He caught me early when I was sleeping on him,” said Haney, 25, during his postfight interview. “He caught me by surprise. I fell asleep on the left hook. We trained for it, but I got in there and I fell asleep. And he caught me with it.”

Garcia often used a shoulder roll where he exposed his back, a tactic he vowed to never use again after he ineffectively deployed it in his eighth-round KO win over Oscar Duarte in December. The defensive method didn’t work again, but he still was able to neutralize Haney’s elite jab by countering over the top.

Haney told ESPN on Thursday he was unsure at times during training camp that the fight with Garcia would even happen.

“We’re here now. That’s all that matters,” he said then. “The stuff he’s doing is not normal. It’s obvious that something is wrong with him. But what he does outside the ring does not matter. It won’t change what I’m going to do to him inside the ring.”

Haney had plenty of reason to be confident. He retained his undisputed lightweight championship with a razor-thin unanimous decision over future Hall of Famer Vasiliy Lomachenko in May.

Afterward, Haney, who fights out of Las Vegas, moved up to 140 pounds for a December fight with Regis Prograis. Haney won via shutout on all three cards in his junior welterweight debut and even dropped the champion en route to a title in a second division.

Haney entered Saturday’s bout ranked No. 1 by ESPN at 140 pounds. Garcia, meanwhile, lost in his only previous bout on the elite level, a seventh-round KO defeat by Gervonta Davis in an April 2023 superfight. A body shot put Garcia down for the count.

But one year later, Garcia proved that he, too, is an upper-echelon fighter capable of beating the best. Maybe all the turbulence during the promotion aided Garcia in some paradoxical way.

“There’s fighters who need that chaos,” Garcia’s promoter, Hall of Fame boxer Oscar De La Hoya, told ESPN earlier this month. “There’s fighters who perform much better when there’s chaos. It almost blinds you from reality.”

Garcia was required to undergo a mental health evaluation by the New York State Athletic Commission last week and passed, but previously said he felt the decision was unfair and “demeaned” him.

He openly talked about his anxiety and depression in the past. In April 2021, Garcia withdrew from a bout with Javier Fortuna to address his mental health.

“I’ve backed off a fight before,” Garcia said last week. “I know when I actually have an issue, and I don’t.”

Garcia and Haney first crossed paths when they were 11-year-olds plying their craft in the amateurs.

The first time they met inside the ring was May 2012, months before they both turned 12. Garcia won that amateur bout via unanimous decision in Southern California. Before Saturday night, the last time they fought was January 2015. Haney won that three-round contest in the same fashion. They were 16 then.

Nine years later, Garcia broke the stalemate and won the only fight between them that truly mattered.



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